COLUMBIA - For a moment, the magic lingered inside Colonial Life Arena.
The court storming and joyous memories of South Carolina's shocking upset of Kentucky three nights ago were fresh. South Carolina trailed No. 1 Florida by four points as the midway point of the second half neared. Once again, anything seemed possible.
Then Michael Frazier got hot.
The Gators sophomore guard hit an SEC record 11 3-pointers Tuesday, leading Florida to a 72-46 win over South Carolina before a crowd of 12,781. Instead of rushing the court, Frazier sent Gamecocks fans to the exits with five minutes left.
"We never put a hand in his face," South Carolina coach Frank Martin said. ". I thought we were late to him every single time. I didn't think we got to him. Somehow, someway, we obviously didn't express to our players that Michael Frazier shoots the basketball. That obviously wasn't communicated as well as it needed to be communicated."
South Carolina (11-19, 4-13 SEC) played a soft zone defense, effectively treating Frazier to a game of long-range H-O-R-S-E. Florida (28-2, 17-0) appreciated it kindly.
Frazier finished with a career-high 37 points, shooting all but three shots behind the 3-point line. Teammate and senior center Patric Young joked Frazier's 18 3-pointers may have also been an SEC record.
Young didn't mind the high-volume shooting, though.
"It was just good for us to be able to keep running our offense," Young said. "For us, to get a Michael Frazier open three as many times as we can, that's what we want to get. If we can get that 60 possessions out of a game, we'll live by that."
Frazier made four 3-pointers during a 3:18 stretch midway through the second half, helping Florida blow the game open with 18 unanswered points. Behind Frazier's shooting, South Carolina's 39-35 deficit became a 57-35 canyon before the next media timeout.
The sophomore said he'd never gotten that hot in a college game before.
"Maybe in high school, but this is definitely my first college game that I felt like that," Frazier said. ". The ball felt good in warmups. My shot felt good. And then, in the game, my teammates did a great job of finding me. I was able to get in a zone there, but I didn't really feel anything. I was just there, and the ball went in."
One month and one day before the Final Four, South Carolina trailed the nation's top-ranked team 28-26 at halftime. The Gamecocks almost doubled their opponent's rebounding total in the first half, physically imposing their will around the rim.
Even still, Martin was concerned.
He knew South Carolina's perimeter players were closing out too late on Frazier. With a great shooter, Martin said, the most important thing is to apply pressure before the shot. Frazier was well into his shooting motion by the time a defender was near him.
"When you play against a shooter, once the ball is above his temple I don't care if your hand is up," Martin said. "You can throw stuff up there, and it's not going to faze him."
On the other end of the court, Florida's defense gave South Carolina's talented youngsters a rough night. Freshman guard Sindarious Thornwell scored only seven points on 3-of-9 shooting. Fellow freshman Duane Notice had 11 points, but he shot just 2-of-7 from the floor.
Afterward, senior guard Brenton Williams marveled at how quickly Florida ran away.
"The belief was there," Williams said. "Everybody's energy was good going into the half down (two points) against the No. 1 team in the country. Coming out, we knew that the second half was going to be an even tougher battle than it was in the first half. I think we came out kind of flat, and Florida didn't. They capitalized on every opportunity that they had."